Many schools across England are considering cutting teachers or teaching hours to save money amid rising costs and government underfunding, said the head teacher’s union, NAHT. In a latest survey conducted by the union, of the 11,000 respondents, 66% said they will have to make teaching assistants redundant or reduce their hours, despite the £4 billion increase in school funding this year by the government.
NAHT said although school funding is increasing, costs such as pay and energy are rising fast, resulting in many school leaders considering ‘desperate’ cuts in an attempt to balance their budgets. The survey also shows that half of the people who answered say they are thinking about cutting the number of teachers or the number of hours they teach, and that almost half would have to cut support and services for children in need.
Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, said: “Schools are being hit by a perfect storm of costs. In attempting to balance their budgets, school leaders are being faced with eye-watering energy bills, spiralling costs to resources and supplies, and the financial impact of an unfunded pay increase this year. With no fat left to cut following a decade of austerity, many thousands of schools are now looking at falling into deficit unless they make swingeing cuts. Education is truly in a perilous state.”
The survey, which responses come mostly from primary schools, also reveals that more than half (54%) of schools say they will go into deficit this year, unless they make further cuts and only 5% of schools say they will be able to pay their costs next academic year (2023/2024) without going into deficit – meaning more than nine in 10 schools won’t be able to balance their budgets without drastic action. NAHT said since most schools are not permitted to operate a deficit budget, they must make significant cuts to remain in the black.
Meanwhile, close to half (47%) of schools said they would be forced to reduce non-educational support and services for children next year, meaning they would have to cut back on vital services such as counselling, therapy and mental health support. Over four in 10 (44%) said they would have to reduce spending on additional targeted interventions for pupils requiring additional support. This means pupils needing extra help or those with special educational needs and disabilities may not get the support they need.
The survey also finds that a third (31%) said they will have to reduce the number of children receiving tutoring support through the National Tutoring Programme, meaning fewer children receive Covid recovery support.
Mr Whiteman said: “After a decade of austerity, schools have made all the easy savings already. The only things left to cut are things that will have a real immediate impact on children – and especially those who are already the most disadvantaged and vulnerable. This goes against everything school leaders strive for, and the anger and desperation I am hearing from my members is unprecedented.
“Schools are finding that they have no option but to make redundancies. A reduction in teaching assistants and teachers will be catastrophic, leading to larger class sizes and less support for children with the greatest needs. This cannot be allowed to happen.
“Schools will no longer be able to afford those crucial services that are there to support pupils – things that children rely on not just for education but for their health and wellbeing. Things like in-school mental health services, counselling, and speech and language therapy. And it’s that extra help for families – especially those hit hardest by the cost-of-living crisis – that schools can no longer afford – things like food for breakfast and help with clothing and laundry.
“Having refused to fund the proposed post-Covid recovery plan last year, this government is effectively abandoning the most vulnerable children in society a second time by decimating the support schools can offer during a renewed time of crisis.
“The responses to this survey represent a significant proportion of the education profession – leaders out there in schools, on the front line, who are seeing the true desperation of the situation at hand. They do not raise the alarm lightly – when they speak, the government must listen. We must see urgent action on education spending ahead of the next Budget update.”